There are numerous resources for pro-life law students, including top-notch legal foundations that work specifically in defense of the preborn. Explore below to find legal foundations and cases you should know that have shaped abortion law in America, as well as good sources for pro-life news.
Pro-Life Legal Foundations
The Major Cases Anti-Abortion Advocates Should Know:
- United States v. Vuitch, 402 U.S. 62 (1971): the first case about abortion to reach the Supreme Court.
- Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (& Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179): landmark case(s) that legalized abortion through all nine months for any reason.
- Bigelow v. Virginia, 421 U.S. 809, (1975): Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban advertising by abortion facilities.
- Bellotti v. Baird, 443 U.S. 662 (1979): A minor’s right to an abortion may be conditioned on parental consent, as long as there is an alternative procedure provided by the State.
- Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980): Title XIX does not require a participating State to pay for those medically necessary abortions for which federal reimbursement is unavailable under the Hyde Amendment.
- City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 462 U.S. 416 (1983): a city ordinance (1870.03) that required late-term abortions to be committed in hospitals, parental consent if mother is younger than 15, informed consent about pregnancy development & abortion risks, 24-hour waiting period, & humane disposal of child’s remains is deemed unconstitutional.
- Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 476 U.S. 747 (1986): “The States are not free, under the guise of protecting maternal health or potential life, to intimidate women into continuing pregnancies.”
- Bowen v. Kendrick, 487 U.S. 589 (1988): The Adolescent Family Life Act (“AFLA”) provided federal funding for organizational services and research in the area of premarital teenage sexuality. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that the “advancement of religion” was not AFLA’s primary effect. Such oversight did not create an “excessive entanglement” between church and state because AFLA merely authorized funding of religiously affiliated, rather than pervasively sectarian, organizations.
- Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490 (1989)
- Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992): In a plurality opinion, the Court upheld the “constitutional right” to have an abortion that was created in Roe v. Wade (1973), but altered the standard for analyzing restrictions on that right, crafting the “undue burden” standard for abortion restrictions.
- Ferguson v. City of Charleston, 532, U.S. 67 (2001): When the incidence of cocaine use among maternity patients remained unchanged despite referrals for counseling and treatment of patients who tested positive for that drug, MUSC staff offered to cooperate with the city in prosecuting mothers whose children tested positive for drugs at birth. The court held here that the interest in using the threat of criminal sanctions to deter pregnant women from using cocaine cannot justify a departure from the general rule that an official nonconsensual search is unconstitutional if not authorized by a valid warrant.
Important Cases about Contraception:
- Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 62 (1965): Right to Privacy for intimate, personal matters such as childbearing.
- Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972): This decision established the “right” of unmarried individuals to obtain contraceptives.
- Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corporation, 463 U.S. 60 (1983): Title 39 U.S.C. 3001(e)(2) prohibits the mailing of unsolicited advertisements for contraceptives. As applied to appellee’s proposed mailings, 3001(e)(2) is unconstitutional.
Important Cases about Parental / Spousal Notification:
- Hodgson v. Minnesota, 497 U.S. 417 (1990): 48-hour waiting period and parental consent of a minor affirmed.
- Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, 546 U.S. 320 (2006): After New Hampshire’s state legislature approved the Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act but before the act went into effect, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England challenged the law in federal district court. They claimed that the law, which requires that parents be notified before their minor daughter has an abortion, violated the “undue burden” test laid out in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing for the Court, held that the statute would be unconstitutional when applied to the very small percentage of minors for whom an emergency abortion would be necessary to avert serious damage to their health.
The Partial-Birth Abortion Decisions:
- Stenberg v. Carhart (2000) (aka Carhart I): A Nebraska law prohibited any “partial birth abortion” unless that procedure was necessary to save the mother’s life. It defined “partial birth abortion” as a procedure in which the doctor “partially delivers vaginally a living unborn child before killing the… child,” and defined the latter phrase to mean “intentionally delivering into the vagina a living unborn child, or a substantial portion thereof, for the purpose of performing a procedure that the [abortionist] knows will kill the… child and does kill the… child.”
In a complicated 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the Court held that “Nebraska’s statute criminalizing the performance of “partial birth abortion[s]” violates the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted in Casey and Roe.” Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent concluded that “[t]he notion that the Constitution of the United States… prohibits the States from simply banning this visibly brutal means of eliminating our half-born posterity is quite simply absurd.”
- GONZALES v. CARHART (2007) (aka Carhart II): In 2003, Congress passed and the President signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The controversial concept of partial-birth abortion is defined in the Act as any abortion in which the death of the fetus occurs when “the entire fetal head […] or […] any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother.” Dr. Leroy Carhart and other physicians who commit late-term abortions sued to stop the Act from going into effect. The Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that Congress’s ban on partial-birth abortion was not unconstitutionally vague and did not impose an undue burden on the “right” to an abortion.